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Point Pearce

Before the coming of the European pastoralists, the Yorke Peninsula was the home of the Narungga people, who occupied the land from near Port Wakefield in the east, over to Port Broughton in the west, and all the way down to the tip of the Peninsula.

Discovery of copper on Yorke Peninsula in 1859 lead to a swelling population, and the establishment of sizeable townships. These attracted many Narungga and the previously mobile population began to settle closer to these towns where they were exposed to damaging influences, such as alcohol and disease. Concerned for the welfare of these fringe-dwellers and with an aim to 'civilise' them, the local population began petitioning the Government and laying plans for a mission.

The land selected was familiar to many of the Narungga who would have often travelled though it. Known to them as Bookooyana, the area was a place where one could find an abundance of shellfish, game and fresh water soaks. Leaseholder Samuel Rogers, was concerned about the effect that such a settlement would have on his water supplies, and tried to fight the Government, but was eventually placated. And so in 1868 about six hundred acres, 35 miles south of Wallaroo, was given over for the establishment of the Yorke's Peninsula Aboriginal Mission, later called Point Pearce.

About 70 Narungga came to live at the Mission. But conditions were hard, and after a spread of illness led to a number of deaths in 1872, by 1874 the population had dropped to only 28.

Those Narungga who had resisted living on the Mission were reluctant to pass on their cultural knowledge and language to Mission residents. In 1894 the Mission was thrown into chaos when the former residents of the closed Poonindie Mission were shifted to Point Pearce. This introduction of people from a variety of Aboriginal language groups, some who had been living long under colonial influences, compounded the loss of the Narungga's own cultural identity.

By the end of the 1910s many of the Mission residents had grown up on the Mission and considered it their home. But there was frustration that despite all of their toil, they were not able to claim any of the land for their own, and work for themselves.

In 1915, the Mission was taken over by the State Government and became known as the Point Pearce Aboriginal Station. Residents continued to fight for their rights to benefit from their labours, but only after World War II were Aboriginal farmers able to reap any such reward - even then only earning one in ten bags produced by the white farmers they worked along side of.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s residents were taking positions as domestics, or farmhands or joining the armed services and then in the 1950s many gained exemptions under the Aborigines Protection Act and left Point Pearce to try and make better lives for themselves under less strict controls.

The Aboriginal people of Point Pearce were finally given control of the land in 1972, when 5,777 hectares was transferred to the ownership of the Point Pearce Community Council under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act.

Point Pearce
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Point Pearce Mission Station
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Progress report of the Royal Commission on the Aborigin
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'Shooting Tommy'
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The Point Pearce Mission
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